By S Mulvhill
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, is currently in prison after being sentenced to seven years in 2011 for improper behaviour while in public office. Sentenced by a judge without trial, the European court of Human Rights has ruled that her imprisonment is illegal and politically motivated. This play by Hrvoje Hitrec explores Tymoshenko’s ideologies from the prison cell she shares with a prostitute framed for murder, Lina.
The performances by the two actors in this piece actors are stunning, with real emotion and depth, though the script sometimes makes Yulia Tymoshenko seem over-simplistic and single minded. This may be in part due to translation (the writer and cast are all Croatian) and a spelling error in the epilogue can probably be accredited to the same thing. However, the unbending, and slightly naïve, portrayal of Tymoshenko does offer an interesting and compelling contrast with the world-weary character of her cell mate. Directed by award winning Jakov Sedlar this play sometimes feels as if it wants to be adapted for the screen rather than sitting solidly as a piece for stage in its own right. With an introductory film montage and closing epilogue projected onto the blacks at the back of the stage, Sedlar borrows from the conventions of a Hollywood biopic, which, alongside the occasional melancholy soundtrack accompanying some of Tymoshenko’s speeches, does distract a bit from the power of two actors live in the room.
This is a strong piece and importantly highlights some of the corruption and dubious workings of some states in the former Soviet bloc: those not familiar with Tymoshenko and the Ukraine are given a good introduction into the situation. The actors are outstanding and the dynamic onstage spellbinding. A good, thought provoking play.